On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs invited the Seattle Seahawks over to their house for a Christmas Eve party. Unfortunately, things escalated. The Chiefs had to send their visitors packing after laying the wood — and notching a 24-10 victory.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. Tommy Townsend is unquestionably the best punter in football
Townsend had a rough week. Former Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt went on social media and local radio to place all of the Chiefs' placekicking woes squarely on his shoulders — a claim which was later refuted by Butker himself.
I honestly feel badly for Townsend. With all the media whirlwind surrounding him this week, it put a black cloud on the fact that he was named to his first Pro Bowl. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that Townsend’s primary job isn’t to hold the ball for Butker. Instead, his first job is to punt the ball. Giving the opposing offense bad field position is something he has done phenomenally well this year. In 2022, Townsend is averaging 51.8 yards per punt, (46.5 yards net) with a long punt of 76 yards. That is just five yards shy of the Chiefs’ record of 81 yards — which was set by Colquitt.
Townsend was good enough on Christmas Eve. He kept Seattle backed up against their own end zone at the beginning of the game — while the Kansas City offense was struggling to get going.
2. Cold starts are a pattern for this offense
The Chiefs have been struggling with sluggish starts since they came off the bye week. Since then, the team has averaged a meager 4.8 points in the first quarter. Kansas City has also trailed the opponent at the end of the first quarter in two out of its three losses this season. The lone exception was the game against the Buffalo Bills, in which neither team scored a point in the first quarter.
On Saturday, the Chiefs punted on three out of their first four drives. In those three drives, they ran a total of 10 plays.
That’s got to improve. In January, the last thing the Chiefs want to do is fall into an early hole against a playoff team.
3. When they want to, the Chiefs can commit to stopping the run
It wasn’t just cold on Saturday. It was brittle, hurt-your-bones-when-you-move, freezing outside. It was the sort of weather where the last thing a normal human being wants to do is smash their body into another person at full speed and drive them into the frozen ground.
Seattle came into Sunday’s contest with a banged-up offense with one bright spot: rookie running back Kenneth Walker III was returning from injury. Early on, it was evident that Seattle wanted to run the ball against the Chiefs. And why not? A steady balance of running and passing plays has been the staple of the Seahawks' offense this season; prior to Saturday’s game, Seattle was averaging 108 yards per game on the ground.
But in the first half, the Chiefs held Seattle to a paltry 26 yards on 11 carries. If you take away the 16 garbage yards Seattle had on the final drive of the half, the Seahawks averaged an embarrassing 1.3 yards per carry through the first two quarters of the game.
On a day when a normal team might have tapped out on playing physically, the Chiefs strapped up and brought the pain.
4. George Karlaftis is making an impact on defense
After lighting up the world in the preseason, Chiefs fans understandably had high expectations for their first-round edge defender. So when Karlaftis only registered 0.5 sacks in the first 10 games of his career, Kansas City fans were understandably worried that the team might have missed on their first-round Boilermaker.
While the learning curve from Purdue to the pros has been steep, Karlaftis has turned the corner since the beginning of the holiday season. Over the last five games, he has registered four sacks, two passes batted down and five tackles for a loss — including a sack and a batted pass on Saturday.
With Frank Clark likely a cap casualty after this season — and Carlos Dunlap playing on a one-year contract — Karlaftis developing into a legit pass rusher isn’t just a nice development for the defense. It’s a necessity for the team’s continued success.
5. When running backs are featured, the Chiefs offense can look electric
I honestly don’t care that neither of Patrick Mahomes’ passing touchdowns on Saturday were thrown past the line of scrimmage. With the emergence of Jerrick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco, this offense no longer has to rely on its quarterback’s superhero antics to move the ball downfield.
That’s not to say that there isn’t still room within the offense for Mahomes to make our eyeballs pop out of our skulls with the amazing plays that he makes look routine. It’s just that he no longer must rely on them to be successful.
Running the ball effectively doesn’t just gain yards on the ground. It also keeps the opposing defense honest by preventing them from pinning their ears back and going after Mahomes full steam on every play.
With the addition of Kadarius Toney (and the pending return of Mecole Hardman), there is no shortage of weapons on the team. We are used to seeing this offense stretch the field with the long ball. But these days, some of the Chiefs' most electric offensive plays are starting within five yards of the line of scrimmage. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Have a fantastic holiday weekend!